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Distance Learning: The Pros and Cons of Online Universities and Colleges

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Distance learning is an old, acquainted concept. Since the birth of the United States Postal Service and the more adapt processes of information distribution, distance learning has been implemented and throughout the decades, has evolved in various forms.

Today, the most popular form of distance learning is via the Internet. These online course programs have rapidly become a popular piece within the educational topography of today. More and more, institutions are offering these programs and seeing a definite growth in online course enrollment.

However, with the growth of these programs, there seemingly has been limited research on the success or graduation rate as a result of pursuing an online degree, and many factors have been called into question as to the value of online study programs versus the traditional classroom environment.

So what are the measurements? How is an online degree program beneficial, and how can it be a hinderance?

Pros to an Online Degree Study Program

1. Overall Flexibility

Whether you are a business professional maintaining a full-time career, or a stay-at-home mom, whatever your current situation, choosing to enroll in an online degree program will prove to be extremely flexible. Studies can be done at your own pace without intervening on your life’s schedule. Not to mention, there is no need to commute, which is an added imposition.

2. Fast-Track Learning

Obtaining an online degree often takes half the amount of time a traditional college degree can take. For someone who is interested in a career shift or better job opportunities, this can be extremely beneficial as opposed to waiting four to five years, commonly the time a traditional degree can take.

3. Self-Motivation and Time Management Discipline

In order to be successful in online coursework, diligence and motivation are key. This can work both for you and against you; however, the development of self-motivation and time management discipline that is required in order to be successful in online studies, is a valuable attribute to learn and apply in the business world.

4. Financial Aid and Cost Efficiencies

Students wishing to pursue degrees in the online form are equally in line to receive financial aid as a student would in a traditional setting. Additionally, many online courses offer required materials and supplies via the Internet, known as ebooks and etexts, and online libraries may be available for added research resources. This benefit can significantly cut the costs of textbooks and supplies, which can end up being extremely expensive.

Cons to an Online Degree Study Program

1. Limited Degree Choices

Due to the nature of the online classroom set-up, hands-on approaches to learning are unworkable. To that end, certain types of degrees such as a medical degree, for instance, would require some classroom learning. However, the amount of degrees that are offered in distance learning programs, such as business, computer science, criminal justice, graphic design, accounting, etc., are growing and increasingly popular. Just keep in mind that some options may be limited.

2. No Face-to-Face Interaction

A major complaint with online study is, simply, there is no face-to-face interaction with students or professors. Many times students crave this dynamic as an important role in their ability to learn and be challenged. Online courses provide cyber-interaction with fellow classmates through email and chat forums, but this is not a viable substitute for face-to-face interpersonal relationships.

Similarly, there is a lack of immediate professor feedback. Student/professor relationships are also via email and can sometimes be a frustration to the student in need of further instruction.

3. Online Degree Companies: Grounds for Fraud

Unfortunately, in today’s society, internet fraud is rampant and online degree programs have been instruments used for fraudulent purposes. A student choosing to study via the internet must be discerning. The institution should be legally accredited and above-board, and perhaps, some research should be done before enrolling.

4. Not Able to Self-Motivate?

As mentioned previously, online coursework requires diligence and self-motivation on a greater level than a traditional classroom setting may call for. There is no set time-structure for studying and no outside facet spurring on coursework responsibility. It is left completely up to the student to maintain. If the student cannot prove to be reliable in this sense, the study program will most certainly be unsuccessful.

Making the Choice

If you choose to pursue an online degree, make sure that you weigh out the pros and cons to be sure it is the best fit for your life and study habits. Also, be sure that the school you are considering enrolling in is accredited and of good reputation. Do what it takes to be successful!

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Janet almost 10 years ago Janet

I understand the choices being made when choosing to pursue an on line education. It is difficult to interact but if the appropriate forms are filled out for team work and phone numbers are exchanged, the interaction is more like a regular classroom. I have been attending on line courses for over a year now, and I am pleased with every aspect. The quality of the education is variable based on the course professor but that is true of on site education as well. After earning my AA on site, I find the on line courses are much harder. You end up having to really do self teaching and using resources to find the information where on site classes might provide much of that information. I feel that in most of my on line courses I have learned more by having to really stay self motivated and by having to find more answers; rather than asking and being told the answers in class. One thing not mentioned, is that the courses are extremely expensive! I pay $1,500 per course and still have an average book cost of $300.00 per 8 weeks while taking only two courses each time. I still believe that it is worth it!